Lakers vs. Thunder
The Lakers' defense surrounds Oklahoma City's Steven Adams on Jan. 2, 2019.
(Harry How/Getty Images)

Lakers Fall to Thunder in Defensive Battle

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Facing the league’s top-ranked defense, the Lakers put forth their own suffocating effort, bringing the game into a grinding slugfest.

Though the Lakers and Thunder both struggled to fill the bucket, Oklahoma City had just enough offense for a fourth-quarter burst that gave it a 107-100 win.

L.A. led by five with 11 minutes remaining in the game before conceding 11 unanswered points to an OKC bench unit. When stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook checked back into the game, it was to ice the game rather than claim it.

George was Oklahoma City’s engine, dropping a game-high 37 points thanks to his maestro-like pick-and-roll game, which allowed him to shoot 13-of-18 on two-pointers, overcoming a 2-of-11 clip from deep.

George’s monster night (scored by the sound of booing Lakers fans) helped the Thunder (24-13) overcome a 3-for-20 shooting performance from Westbrook. While he added another triple-double to his league-leading total with 14 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, the 2017 MVP’s individual offense was held in check by the Lakers’ game plan.

With Westbrook serving as a bellwether, the Lakers (21-17) held OKC to just 38.1 percent shooting from the field and seven 3-pointers on a 22.6 percent mark.

Unfortunately for the purple and gold, their own offense didn’t fare much better, shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 25.9 on 3’s. They also left far too many points at the free throw line, where they hit just 59.4 percent (19-of-32).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — coming off a season-high 26 points in his last game — was the lone Laker to find much of a scoring groove, tallying 25 points with five 3-pointers and an 8-of-10 mark on foul shots.

Brandon Ingram (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Josh Hart (13 points, career-high 15 rebounds) both attacked the glass for double-doubles, but they combined to shoot just 13-of-37.

Already shorthanded without the services of LeBron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (finger), the Lakers also lost Kyle Kuzma for the second half due to a lower back contusion. He will undergo an MRI on Thursday morning.

In the meantime, the Lakers will look to bounce back after losing for the third time in four games since James’ injury.

“All four games we’ve had since LeBron’s been out we’ve had leads,” Hart said. “We’ve been playing well. Really they’ve all been one- or two-possession games we could’ve, and a couple we should’ve, won.”

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Josh got it.

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Led by Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers’ bench outscored the Thunder’s, 48-27. … Steven Adams had a 14-point, 15-rebound double-double for OKC. … The Thunder won the possession battle with key advantages in offensive rebounds (17-8) and turnovers forced (17-11).

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Throw it down, big man.

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